Guy Fisher was a notorious gangster in Harlem in the 1970’s who also became the first black man to own the Apollo Theater. Fisher was a part of the crime wave that ruled the streets of Harlem from 1977 to 1983. Fisher was among the crime group called “The Council” under boss Leroy “Nicky” Barnes. Incidentally, it was Barnes’ testimony that put Fisher away for life in Tuscon, Arizona.
Fisher is a south Bronx native. Fisher and his siblings were raised by a mother and absentee father in the housing projects. Their father was addicted to alcohol and gambling and often misused the family money. Fisher’s father was also physically abusive to both his mother and the children. Fisher’s lack of supervision and knack for street fighting landed him in a juvenile detention facility as a teenager and he soon dropped out of school. During this time, he was introduced to Leroy “Nicky” Barnes, the most ruthless drug kingpin on the streets of Harlem.
By the time Fisher as 25 years old, he and Barnes had collaborated as partners in Barnes’ “The Council” organization of crime bosses. Working like a corporation, Barnes and Fisher built two multi-million dollar businesses with the money they earned from heroin sales.
During a traffic stop, Fisher was arrested for trying to bribe the police with $100,000 if they wouldn’t arrest him. As a result, he served nine months in prison. While he was inside, the FBI tracked the activity of “The Council”, a fact that would help Fisher avoid conviction since he was incarcerated during the investigation.
In 1978, Fisher was out of jail and used his money from drug trafficking to renovate the historic Apollo Theater. He put the deed in his half brother’s name, and employed neighborhood people to help renovate the building. The new Apollo Theater was unveiled with performances from Motown acts like Gladys Knight, Jimi Hendrix and The Temptations.
Though he may have wanted to put his money to better use in the community and change his path, Fisher was still part of “The Council”.
With Nicky Barnes in prison, Fisher’s power grew among his peers in the game. He stopped supporting Barnes’ legal issues and even dated Barnes’ girlfriend. Barnes retaliated against Fisher by working with the FBI as an informant to put Fisher away for life.
Since he has been imprisoned, Fisher has earned a Bachelors and Masters degrees and PH.D in sociology. He’s penned several novels, and mentors inmates. He continues to appeal his conviction with no success.
Guy Fisher’s life story was featured on the BET documentary show, “American Gangster” during its third season.